Pianist uses music to help those suffering from brain conditions

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- Legendary Pianist Mike Garson took his talents from the stage to the studio to compose songs for people suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Anaheim Hills resident Nancy Dufault needs a walker to get around because her body is stiff and she often suffers from tremors. It has gotten worse over the last 20 years since she was first diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

The disease causes nerve cells in the brain to die, which affects a person's movement.

"Balance is always an issue and I tend to have a lot of falls," she said.

Parkinson's has been especially tough on Nancy because she and her husband Bob own a dance studio. She said she has tried different medications, and she's even had brain surgery.

But the Dufaults said there is only one therapy that actually works.

"When we dance and we're in a dance frame she feels totally secure and you won't believe what she can do," Bob said.

It is especially true when the couple dances to Tango music, written for them by Mike Garson. The musician and composer has played with David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails and The Smashing Pumpkins.

He is using his music to help people with brain diseases.

"The music as a therapy can eliminate a lot of drugs and a lot of things of that nature," Garson said.

Garson and neurosurgeon Dr. Christopher Duma founded the "Music Heals" project. The idea is to write music for patients with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, autism and even depression to see what effect it has on their condition.

"Perhaps music - with its beats, with its meters, with its pulses - will synchronize some of those brain waves," Duma said.

As the research for the project continues, Duma said the next step is for patients to wear headphones for several hours each day to see how it improves their daily lives.

For the Dufaults, they said it has not only made Nancy feel better, but it's gotten them both back to doing what they love.

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